Funding resilience in The Gambia

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Funding resilience in The Gambia

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When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to shut down in early 2020, poor rural populations were severely impacted. In The Gambia, where nearly half of the estimated 2 million people live in poverty and where food insecurity is widespread, the lockdown was felt with particular force.

Implemented by the Resilience of Organizations for Transformative Smallholder Agriculture Project (ROOTS), the second phase of IFAD’s Rural Poor Stimulus Facility, RPSF2, lent a helping hand in five regions across the country through a series of projects, including cash transfers to 870 vulnerable households.

The youth

For 54 youths in charge of small and medium enterprises across the country, RPSF2 came at the right time. The beneficiaries were trained in digital marketing and business communication, as well as receiving a certificate, COVID-19 sanitary material, and US$1,200 each to aid them through the pandemic.

One of the beneficiaries, 29-year-old Abdoulie Jawara lost his livelihood when the pandemic forced him to shut down his poultry farming business. Head of the household and responsible for his extended family, Abdoulie feared the worst. That was until the Gambia Youth Chamber of Commerce selected him to take part in the ROOTS training for small and medium enterprises.

Mamour Alieu Jagne is the Project Director for ROOTS, a project that aims to improve food security, nutrition and resilience in The Gambia. © Ibrahima Kebe Diallo

In addition to acquiring new marketing and business knowledge, the financial aid allowed Abdoulie to travel to Senegal and purchase 15 rams, which he went on to sell for the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha. This, he says, kick-started a string of profitable business ideas, including raising sheep and pepper production.

“The donation really came at the right time” he says of the RPSF2 funding. Today, Abdoulie can feed his wife, son and extended family, and pay school fees for his nephews and nieces. “Life can be good for youths in rural Gambia.”

The women

When forty-year-old Fatou Badjie lost her husband and her husband’s second wife, she was left with the overwhelming task of raising 12 children alone. The domino effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, saw newly-widowed Fatou struggle to sell the vegetables she grew in her garden. And with 12 mouths to feed, the future felt uncertain.

Financial support from ROOTS and IFAD’s RPSF2 reached her when she most needed it. “It came at a time when sales were down, and things were tough for me,” says Fatou, who used the cash to buy school uniforms, books and school lunches for the children, in addition to food for the household.

Fatou says the RPSF2 funding provided a safety net at a challenging time and helped her carry the weight of her extended family. “I am grateful to ROOTS and IFAD for the help,” she says.

Jankey Ceesay used the RPSF cash transfer to provide for her family. © IFAD/ROOTS/Nuha Nyangado

Like Fatou, 43-year-old farmer Jankey Ceesay used part of the cash transfer to provide for her eight children, pay their school fees and cover one of her son’s medical bills. She also bought a bag of rice to feed her family and a bag of fertilizer for her crops

“The fertilizer increased my groundnut yield,” says Jankey. “I sold part of my produce, we ate some and kept some as seedlings for this year."

The elderly

Jonfolo Ceesay fed her family and repaired her roof with RPSF2 financial support. © IFAD/ROOTS/Nuha Nyangado

Jonfolo Ceesay used to be the family breadwinner, until one of her legs was amputated and she had to stop farming for a living.

“I can no more depend on farming as my movement is restricted,” explains Jonfolo, who is somewhere in her mid-sixties. The first thing she did with the RPSF money was to buy a bag of rice. “The first thing I thought of is food, this was at a time when our rice had finished,” she says.

Like so many households in The Gambia, Jonfolo and her family live hand to mouth, and staple foods like rice are not always accessible to them. With the cash, Jonfolo was also able to pay for her roof to be repaired before the start of the rainy season. “The money came at the right time,” she says.